Industry mentoring

In our industry mentoring stream, we pair a highly motivated PhD student with an industry leader with similar interests to meet up at regular intervals for a period of twelve months, for around two hours per month.

We offer industry mentoring programs to PhD students in our two Colleges – College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, and College of Science, Health and Engineering. Our mentors come from a wide range of industry sectors and backgrounds, including private sector, government and not-for-profit, from Australia and overseas. Mentoring programs in the STEM sector (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are offered through collaboration with IMNIS – Industry Mentoring Network in STEM.

Industry mentoring aims to enhance the mentee’s industry knowledge, professional skills and career readiness, and to provide industry mentors with the opportunity to share their expertise and experience, and shape future leaders.

Mentoring is a voluntary activity, and mentors act in their personal capacity.

Mentoring for candidates/mentees

Whether you stay in research and will collaborate with industry, or you go directly to work in industry upon your graduation, mentoring is a powerful way to help you make your decision and create your career path.

Why you should consider getting an industry mentor:

  • Acquire first-hand industry information relevant to your area of expertise
  • Develop capabilities that enable you to work successfully with industry
  • Become aware of your available skills and strengths
  • Identify skill gaps and build up your professional skills
  • Develop ideas for possible career pathways
  • Expand your professional networks in industry.

Eligibility criteria

You may be eligible for industry mentoring if:

  • you are enrolled in a PhD course at La Trobe
  • you are (ideally) in your second year of candidature (full-time equivalent) at the beginning of 2018
  • you are open-minded and keen to learn more about your industry and its operations, and build your professional skills and networks
  • you wish to develop ideas for possible career pathways, whether you wish to stay in academia collaborating with industry, or work within industry
  • you demonstrate your commitment to the program, including investing two to four hours per month for mentoring activities (reflecting on your skills and aspirations, taking initiative and driving the communication with your mentor).

How to get involved

If you are a PhD candidate enrolled at La Trobe, you may be eligible for PhD industry mentoring. Check your eligibility by filling in the form below.

Apply for the mentoring program

Contact us

Taina Jara
Senior Project Coordinator
T: 03 9479 2265

Testimonials from La Trobe mentees

Lara Bereza-Malcolm, La Trobe PhD candidate in Microbiology

Lara Bereza-malcolm

Image: Dr Eleonara Egidi

“I have increased my networking skills and … I have also gained a better understanding of the connection between business, industry and academia”

Lara Bereza-Malcolm is a PhD student at La Trobe University in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology. Her PhD project is focused on the development of microbial biosensors for the detection of heavy metals in the environment. Her PhD work received second place and people’s choice award at the University level during a 3MT competition. Throughout her PhD she has presented her work at a number of conferences including the Synthetic Biology, Engineering, Evolution and Design (SEED2016) conference in Chicago, USA, the 16th EMBL PhD symposium in Heidelberg, Germany and the Australian Society of Microbiology (ASM) annual scientific meeting in Melbourne, Australia. In 2016, she was part of the winning team at the Australian-French 24-hour Entrepreneur challenge which allowed her to travel to Paris to undergo a study tour and participate to the week of International Scientific Young Talents. Lara participated in the MedTech-Pharma Pilot of the IMNIS program, in Victoria from 2015-2016.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I wanted to know more about working in industry and I thought that this would be a good opportunity. I also wanted to be able to expand my skill set to increase my employability. I looked forward to gaining a mentor who had made choices that I would need to make in my future.

What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

I really appreciated having access to someone who had a lot of experience in industry and business with a broad skill set. I felt very comfortable asking questions and gaining knowledge from their perspective.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received?

We met on average every two months either in person or via Skype. To prepare, I wrote down several questions that I wanted to discuss. One of the best lessons I received was to just go for it, by directly approaching the heads of companies or leaders in my research field.

Would you recommend participating in the IMNIS program to your peers?

I found it an overall enriching experience and would recommend participating. I appreciated the opportunities to meet with my mentor and to learn from their experiences, as well as participating in networking events with various companies and their leaders.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you?

I have increased my networking skills and feel comfortable interacting in a range of different networking environments. I have also gained a better understanding of the connection between business, industry and academia.

Lara on Twitter: @LBerezMalcolm

This article was originally published on Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS), an ATSE initiative. Read the original article.

Anne Brouwer – PhD candidate in Marketing

Image: Anne Brouwer

I’m a PhD candidate and research scholar in the La Trobe Business School. I’m the student representative for the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce on the Board of Graduate Research (a university board providing advice with regard to the University’s strategic objectives and targets for research training), and the President of the Graduate Research Society at La Trobe University (the first society for and by graduate researchers) and chair of the Graduate Researchers’ Team (a team of all graduate research representatives across the University). My research interests are in green marketing, greenwashing and consumer behaviour.

My mentor is an Environmentally Sustainable Design Engineer currently working in local government. Even though we have different backgrounds and are in different areas (engineering vs marketing), we share an interest for sustainability. We maintain regular contact with each other in person and/or email.

I decided to apply for enrolment into industry mentoring mainly because I wanted to discover what opportunities there are for me within industry as future Dr Brouwer. What value can I add with the specific knowledge I create during my PhD, with my wider field of research, or research methodologies I specialise in? Are there jobs in industry for people with a doctorate? And if so, what kind of jobs? What essential skills could I develop during my PhD that increase my employability? A second motivation for me was networking. Besides creating a better understanding of industry, the program has enabled me to learn to know someone who works within industry, and they know other people in industry. This has led to a whole range of (new) opportunities for me.

My mentor has worked on many sustainability-related issues and projects, and has a large network of people involved in sustainability in Melbourne. She has brought me in contact with her previous clients, including the sustainability and communication manager of an Australian supermarket chain, a sustainability leader working with the Victorian State Government, and a program manager of a local government sustainable energy initiative.

I meet with these professionals over a coffee, and ask them questions and discuss their day-to-day work. It’s really interesting to see how projects are designed, run and analysed. They have all been genuinely interested in my views towards their projects and how academic theories could explain some of their outcomes. How do you motivate people to travel more by public transport? How do you motivate people to cycle more? To change to solar panels? There have been interesting discussions about real-life behaviour change and especially its complexities.

Before joining the mentoring program I had been unsure about my future after completing my PhD. I have not decided whether I want to stay in academia or not. Making the decision to continue studying after completing my Masters meant I was not acquiring hands-on practical experience like my peers who went into the workforce. I have been really pleased to hear from the industry leaders I’ve talked to that the knowledge and the level of intelligence outweigh the lack of industry experience, and that my PhD research has practical value and counts as practical experience.

In light of my positive experiences and new opportunities I’ve gained through mentoring, I strongly recommend industry mentoring to other PhD students. We can’t expect obtaining our PhD degree and be handed over a job – it’s a competitive market both inside and outside of academia. Industry mentoring provides a unique chance to get to other possible pathways in addition to the academic one.

As a mentee, it’s important to be open-minded, confident and professional. My mentor and other industry leaders I talk to make time for me in their busy schedules, which means I want to use their time optimally and make the meeting beneficial for them and for me. I search them on LinkedIn, I research the company or organisation, I prepare questions based on the information I find and in light of the goals I set for my mentoring process, prior to each meeting. This approach has proven very valuable and has brought me great outcomes.”

Claretta D'Souza, La Trobe PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Claretta D'Souza

Image: Dr Fung Lay, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences

“It [IMNIS] fills a gap in the training that postgraduate students receive in Australia; insight into translational science. Even if someone is not sure about working in industry, they would still gain a lot in terms of transferable skills and knowledge that would benefit them, regardless of what they choose to do with their post graduate degrees in the future”

I have been carrying out my PhD research at the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) from 2012. My research was in the area of neurodegenerative diseases, specifically, Multiple Sclerosis. This is a disease that affects more than 2.5 million people around the world and severely compromises their quality of life. As the cause for MS is unknown, there is no prevention or cure for the disease. While there are several drugs that alleviate symptoms, and modify disease course, the search is on for a drug or therapeutic agent that can halt disease progress. Working with an animal model, my aim was to identify unique molecules on the surface of the blood vessels of the brain in search of new drug targets. I am currently in the process of writing up my thesis for submission in June 2017. I hope to find employment in the development of medical or therapeutic technologies that will positively impact the lives of people who suffer from chronic conditions.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I participated in the IMNIS program because I was curious about the science industry in Australia. As a PhD student, I had plenty of exposure to science in academia but felt that it was not entirely the right fit for me. However, I did not know enough about the industry options for science graduates to make the transition confidently. IMNIS was specifically targeted to the postgraduates who were interested in the scientific industry and seemed like the perfect opportunity to me.

What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

I was fortunate to be mentored by professional who has had an impressive career in the pharmaceutical industry both overseas and in Australia and is now the CEO of the medical technology and pharmaceutical sector industrial growth centre, MTPConnect. The most important aspect of our relationship was the insight into the workings of industry that I gained from her. She helped me improve my networking skills, adapt my CV to industry requirements and introduced me to a lot of people within the science technology sector in Australia during AusBiotech 2016. Through my mentor I was able to understand the true scope of the industry, the prospects within it, and where I might fit in.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received?

I met my mentor about 4-5 times during the year when I was in the IMNIS program. However, we also kept in touch via email. My relationship with my mentor has endured past the IMNIS program and I am now working part-time for her at MTPConnect. I prepared for my meetings with her by making a list of topics I wanted to discuss, so that I could make the most of my time with her. The best advice I received from her was to not dwell on lost opportunities but to move on quickly to the next viable idea.

Would you recommend participating in the IMNIS program to your peers?

Yes, I would highly recommend the IMNIS program. It fills a gap in the training that postgraduate students receive in Australia; insight into translational science. Even if someone is not sure about working in industry, they would still gain a lot in terms of transferable skills and knowledge that would benefit them, regardless of what they choose to do with their post graduate degrees in the future.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you?

The IMNIS program changed my career trajectory and made me aware of how I could use my particular skill set along with my scientific training to aspire to a career in the scientific industry instead of academia. It opened up a whole new world to me that I knew existed but did not know how to enter. I feel a lot more confident about my ability to thrive in the biotechnology sector and look forward to starting my career in it.

This article was originally published on Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS), an ATSE initiative. Read the original article.

Clayton Harris, La Trobe PhD candidate in Ecology

Clayton Harris

My time in the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) program has been invaluable towards understanding the options available to me after completing my PhD and in solidifying what will be the best career path for me to follow. Before entering the program I had always been interested in an industry career, to me it was a career where I could utilize communication and interpersonal skills along with my technical knowledge, to enable the transition of good research to market and into the public eye. But with zero industry contacts and extremely limited knowledge of IP and the general functioning of an industrial company this seemed to be a career that I might need further qualifications for or that wasn’t applicable to me at all.

During the program I was lucky enough to be paired with Dr Anna Lavelle (CEO, AusBiotech). We held regular face to face meetings in which we discussed a wide array of topics that are often not addressed at university. Just some of the topics we spoke about included; understanding different personality types, how to network effectively, how to follow up a networking session, answering interview questions effectively, different types of companies within scientific industry and how to set up a CV for an industry position. Last year I also had the opportunity to attend both the AusBiotech Agricultural Biosciences International Conference (ABIC) and the AusBiotech National Life Sciences Conference. This was an opportunity to hone my networking skills and speak to some of the biggest names in Industry, an initially intimidating but very rewarding experience. I was given the opportunity to act as Dr Anna Lavelle’s personal assistant for a day at the Life Sciences conference which gave me an insight into how meetings are run, appointments are made, how often schedules can change throughout the day and the roles and responsibilities of a CEO.

I was offered tremendous support from my mentor, her network of contacts, the entire AusBiotech team and the founders and directors of IMNIS when I had questions about different industry fields and roles. I attended fantastic workshops and networking evenings organised through AusBiotech and IMNIS on topics such as “patents and commercialising research” and “how to engage effectively in an industry environment”. These workshops were run by industry professionals and covered the fundamentals of patenting, developing a value proposition, establishing rapport with a client and best practices in regards to working within industry, topics I had very little knowledge of before the program.

I could not recommend the IMNIS mentor program enough to those who are considering a career outside of research. Coming to the end of the program I have a stronger understanding of industry, I have made some fantastic contacts and I have set solid career goals for both the end of my studies and many years to follow.”

See also an interview with Clayton conducted by IMNIS.

Rebecca Le Get, La Trobe PhD candidate in History

"I am a PhD candidate in the department of Archaeology and History, whose research is focused on the environmental history of forests associated with medical institutions. Before starting the PhD I was working in scientific research administration. So, I was studying in a very different field, and wondering where history would lead to, in terms of future careers.

But thinking about your future career while also focusing on your PhD can be quite daunting. You may have some idea of what sort of occupations are out there, or what sort of work sounds interesting, but it’s difficult to tap into new-to-you fields without any industry contacts. I applied to the La Trobe Industry Mentoring program to gain a better understanding of the employment landscape outside of academia, including any ways I could prepare myself for industry employment, while still studying.

The mentoring program paired me up with a fantastic, and experienced, mentor and historian from the GLAM sector (i.e. galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) whose work includes engaging with the wider public to show how history can provide a new, and important, perspective on current-day issues. We meet approximately every two months in person, but we also communicate between those meetings using the online Mentorloop system that La Trobe set up for us.

For me personally, the main benefit of the mentoring program has been to confirm that life does go on after you finish your PhD (although it may sometimes feel like your studies will never end)! Chats with my mentor have been wonderful for confirming and dispelling pre-conceived notions about the industry. But also for providing me with a new perspective on the sheer breadth of opportunities that are available to someone with a PhD, and that there is a lot more out there than just the well-trodden academic paths for historians.

I highly recommend industry mentoring to every PhD candidate. The insights you will receive into the industry that you may soon be entering are priceless. Although your first meeting may be awkward, as you and your mentor find common interests and experiences, persist with the program and you will be lucky enough to collaborate with a mentor, who can help you develop a better idea of what future careers may lie ahead.”

Kathy Parisi, La Trobe PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Cell Biology

“I found the IMNIS program to be quite valuable. I was partnered with Bronwyn Le Grice who at the time was the Head of Commercial Development for Adherium Limited, a global leader in digital health solutions for chronic respiratory disease. Bronwyn has held a number of senior executive positions within the life sciences industry over the past 12 years. She is the former CEO of NZBIO, and has been and Investment Director and now Special Adviser to the BioScience Managers funds since 2012. Most recently she project managed the reverse acquisition of Rex Bionics by Union Medtech and its subsequent GBP10m listing on the AIM Market. I believe I was privileged to have had such an experienced mentor. We met twice and discussed roles that I may like to pursue once I complete my PhD that I had not previously considered and she helped me mature as an employee. We are continuing our mentor/mentee relationship.

IMNIS provided a number of sessions which I attended that provided valuable information regarding products developed in the lab and how to successfully get them to market. I would recommend all PhD students be part of a mentoring program like IMNIS. The key component of the program was developing networking skills and how to successfully approach people we would otherwise avoid. The program took us out of our comfort zone and gave us the opportunity to network with important people in industry.”

Pham Tuan Phong, La Trobe PhD candidate in Finance

Pham Tuan Phong is a La Trobe PhD candidate in finance, focusing on quantitative finance and econometrics. He is participating in the La Trobe PhD industry mentoring program in 2017.

What were your reasons for applying for industry mentoring? What do you expect to get out of mentoring?

I applied for enrolment into industry mentoring because I am planning on developing a career in industry and wanted to have someone with extensive industry experience in Australia to guide me regarding career options and how to prepare myself to be a strong, competitive candidate when applying for a position after my graduation (expected in December 2017).

What sector/industry is your mentor from?

My mentor comes from the healthcare industry, and he also has extensive working experience in telecommunications, consultancy, retail markets, and the NGO sector.

How often do you meet with your mentor, and do you also communicate with each other in between the meetings?

At the beginning of the program, I met with my mentor once a month. We are in regular communication with each other in person and via email, and my mentor is available to support me with any questions I may have.

What have been your and your mentor’s main achievements so far?

We have prepared a very good CV and cover letter for me, which show my skills, strengths and experience, and can be adapted for particular job requirements in my field. I’ve also secured an industry internship via AMSI Intern that gives me an opportunity to acquire research experience in an industry environment and upgrade my CV. My mentor’s support and encouragement was pivotal in obtaining an internship positon.

What has been the main benefit for you from mentoring so far?

My mentor! He is very enthusiastic and helpful. He guides me with what I need to do to prepare myself for my future employment, including having a strong CV and being aware of what companies look for in high-quality candidates. He also helps me with my writing skills to make sure they match the style used in industry, and supports me with having access to internship and employment opportunities through his network.

Would you recommend industry mentoring to other PhD candidates? Why?

I would strongly recommend industry mentoring to my peers. It is a very time efficient way to get support with finding out and becoming clear of what they need to do to make them ready for their career. They’ll also be able to leverage their strengths with the mentor’s knowledge, wisdom, experience, and network.

Any tips you would like to give to prospective mentees?

I’d recommend that they reflect on their career aspirations and goals, and prepare their mentoring meetings well. It is also important that they set goals, and develop and implement an action plan for their mentoring process in writing, which they discuss with their mentor each month and adjust as required. In my case this approach has proven very effective.

Mwilye Sikanyika, La Trobe PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Cell Biology

“IMNIS is one of the most important programs I have signed up for during my PhD. It gave me insight into life outside academia, providing me with information on alternative career pathways in industry. My IMNIS mentor gave me valuable recommendations regarding careers. Throughout the program, I met senior people in industry, listened to their stories and was able to discuss with them. I now have a much better idea about what I want to do when I graduate. I would highly recommend IMNIS to anyone who would like to broaden their perspective and get new ideas for the time after their PhD.”

Andrew Whalley – PhD candidate in Anthropology

"I’m a PhD candidate in the discipline of anthropology and my general research interest is in the ways that illicit drugs are understood and responded to as a social problem. Currently I’m conducting ethnographic fieldwork within a Needle and Syringe Program, focussing on the relationships that this service builds with its clients and how these work into their attempts to reduce drug-related stigma.

In the early stages of my candidature I was doing some casual policy and research work at a small not-for-profit that concerns itself with drug-related issues, and I was interested in what other options I might have for applying my skills outside of academia. When I received an email informing me of the PhD Industry Mentoring Program this looked like a great opportunity to find out about these options.

It was a pleasant surprise to be paired up with a mentor who works in youth mental health – a related but slightly different area to that which I’m familiar with. Throughout our monthly meetings we’ve covered lots of ground, including: what the key organisations are in this field; what kind of research his own organisation typically undertakes; the ways in which a person with my skills might fit into this sector outside of a strict research focus; how and when a person coming towards the end of their PhD candidature might seek post-doctoral work in the sector; and so on. Yet, more than anything, it’s been great to have lots of conversations on topics that we’re each interested in and through this I’ve learned a lot about how someone with decades of experience in this field thinks about various issues – how they’re approached and worked through.

So far my experience in the program has been really enjoyable and informative. While I imagine that each mentor-mentee pair has their own dynamic between them, my mentor and I have taken a very casual approach, meeting at a café for a coffee or beer after our work days are done. While we’re discussing work related topics we’re able to do it at a distance in a way that makes it not seem like more work. And through this we’re building a relationship that is both worth it for its own sake as well as for how useful such relationships are in people’s careers. I would certainly recommend the program to anyone who’s interested in work prospects beyond a university setting.”

Mithun Das - PhD candidate in Anatomy and Microbiology

Image: Mithun Das

I am a second year PhD candidate in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology at La Trobe University. Besides my doctoral research work, I am participating in Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) MedTech-Pharma program in Victoria as a mentee. In my PhD research, I am working on the identification of novel human immune host factors responsible for control of viral infections, which will lead us to find novel and/or more efficient drug targets against viral infections. I am using CRISPR/Cas knockout library screening tool to identify novel host factors responsible for the viral infection control in human. The novel mechanisms related to these host factors of viral infection control will also be studied using CRISPR/Cas knock out tools. Regulation of antiviral mechanisms by regulating the functions of the target host factors will allow hosts to control viral infections. I have completed my M.Sc. in Experimental Medicine from McGill University, Canada where I studied pathophysiological immune responses in cystic fibrosis patients following viral and bacterial infections. In addition to this, I also worked on therapeutic uses of vitamin D analogues as antiviral and anti-inflammatory in cystic fibrosis patients following infections. Before my M.Sc. study I worked as a research assistant at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine (CARSM) located at the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. I completed my B.Sc. (4 years) in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering from Khulna University, Bangladesh, where I worked on the development of safe probiotic yoghurt for human consumption. My participation in vast areas of biological, medical and biotechnological research enhanced my basic and clinical research knowledge. Finally, my work experiences from diverse global work environments have provided me with perseverance to perform effectively in my area of interest and helping me to fulfill my career goals.

Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?

Being a second year PhD student in the area of biological and medical research, I felt that it is the right time to prepare myself for the next stage of my career. As a full time research student in an academic laboratory, I do not have experience of working in the industrial environment. Therefore, participating in the IMNIS internship program is a great opportunity for me to get to know how the industry works, what the industry expects to have in a science graduate beside academic knowledge, and what the key points are that I need to improve to get involved in the industry after my graduation.

What is the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

I feel privileged for being part of this great mentorship program and having a mentor who is a leader in the research and development department of one of the biggest multinational companies. I believe it is a great opportunity for me to know more about how it works in the industry directly from an industry leader. My mentor is providing me with many networking opportunities, especially by introducing me with the leading industry employees who have a science background like me, so that I can learn more about their transition from student life to industry and plan my career.

What do you hope your mentor can help you achieve and what is the best piece of advice you have received so far?

With the directions of my mentor, I have already set some plans to identify the skills I have and the skills I need to improve to become a resourceful professional not only in the industry but also in the academia. I have also started to build a strong professional network with the support of my mentor. The best advice I have received so far from my mentor is “talk to like-minded people even if they are not working in the same area, because communication and networking not only opens doors of opportunity but also helps to generate novel ideas”.

What are the top 3 key things you hope to learn through the IMNIS program?

I believe the work environment in industry and academia is a different.  I hope that the IMNIS program will help me

  • Learn how to identify academic experiences that are transferable to the industry.
  • Identify the professional skills that I have and skills that I need to improve to become a successful professional in the industry.
  • Learn about the factors that the industry professionals consider most in an innovative idea.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?

The most rewarding aspect of being part of this program is being able to ask questions directly to an industry leader to enrich my knowledge about the industry environments. This program has been a great platform for me to build a strong network with the industry professionals and learn more about the skills that the industry leaders look for in a potential candidate. Furthermore, this program not only connected me with my mentor but also with the other mentees, mentors and the organisers of this program from whom I am learning about a vast area of industry and academic professions where my knowledge and experiences can be transferable.

What are your favourite hobbies and interests?

I like traveling to new places, sightseeing, experiencing various cultures and traditions, reading books, gardening, volunteering for social cause, etc. Sports have always been my biggest interest. I like playing chess, cards, badminton, soccer, cricket and trail running, and I have been actively participating in these sports throughout my school, college and University years.

This article was originally published on Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS), an ATSE initiative“.
Read the original article.